SAN DIEGO — The Giants came here with a much-needed chance to make up ground in their playoff push. A sweep one way could have pulled them within 3.5 games of the Padres and the final National League wild card spot. The other direction would have sent them 9.5 games back and maybe put an official end to their postseason hopes.
Ultimately, with a back-and-forth 13-7 loss Wednesday afternoon, they pushed. By dropping the last two contests of this three-game series, San Francisco fell one game further back than where they started, a season-high 7.5 games separating them from playoff position with 51 left to play.
While the Padres loaded up at the trade deadline, the Giants stood pat. They didn’t upgrade their rotation. They did nothing to improve their defense. And they added no bullpen reinforcements.
All three areas came back to bite them in the series finale, a game which they led twice but immediately blew with poor pitching and defensive miscues in the bottom half of each inning.
After taking a 4-0 lead in the top of the third, Giants starter Jakob Junis allowed seven straight batters to reach and four runs to score before he recorded an out in the bottom half. After rallying for a 7-6 advantage in the top of the sixth, relievers Yunior Marte and Jarlín García combined to allow seven straight two-out hits that led to seven runs.
The Giants could have escaped the sixth with only a 10-7 deficit, but after Trent Grisham beat out an infield single for their fifth straight hit, Brandon Belt overthrew catcher Austin Wynns, allowing Ha-Seong Kim to score, and nine-hole-hitting catcher Austin Nola swatted their second home run of the inning on the following at-bat.
Aside from the nightmare sixth, the Giants appeared to somewhat solve their defensive issues this series — Luis González provided another highlight Wednesday with a leaping grab in left field to rob Manny Machado of extra bases — but more concerns rose out of those ashes.
First and foremost must be Junis, who on Wednesday started his fourth game since returning from the injured list and has yet to find the same form. Part of the reason the Giants didn’t add starting pitching at the trade deadline — even shipping away depth in Matthew Boyd — was the emergence of Junis.
“We talked about how we really like our rotation,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said at the time. “That wasn’t necessarily going to be an area to add for us. … We have one of the best rotations in baseball now that Jake Junis is back and throwing well.”
Problem is, Junis isn’t throwing well and hasn’t since returning from the IL. His velocity is up and he doesn’t know why, but he does know that it’s making his slider a less effective pitch. Junis, who relies on the slider more than any other starter in the majors, admitted he hasn’t regained a feel for the pitch since his IL stint.
In his worst outing of the season Wednesday, Junis allowed nearly as many runs (six) as he recorded outs (seven). In five appearances (four starts) since returning from the IL, Junis has a 7.16 ERA, compared to the sterling 2.63 figure he posted before straining his hamstring on June 10.
As a whole, Giants starters have a 5.83 ERA this month, the third-worst mark in the majors for August.
One deadline addition is looking like an upgrade: J.D. Davis, acquired from the Mets for Darin Ruf, gave the Giants a 1-0 lead with an opposite-field solo shot in the second and reached base in three of his five trips to the plate. Davis has homered three times in seven games with San Francisco.
The Giants have six more games left with the Padres — three at Oracle Park to finish this month and three more in San Diego to end the season — and have plenty of work left to do. Even if they sweep their remaining meetings, the Giants will need help to close a 7.5-game gap.
Contributed by local news sources